Senior Satisfaction Slackens

On the glossy pages of admissions pamphlets, the College often touts the high levels of satisfaction with which most students view their four years here. Recent data, however, have begun to call those claims into question and suggest that Dartmouth has a growing problem with the quality of the undergraduate experience it offers.

Earlier this week, the administration released the result of its 2014 senior survey. It found that among the 44 percent of graduating students who responded, 90 percent indicated that they were satisfied with their Dartmouth experience and only 71 percent suggested that they would recommend the College to a high school student who resembled them.

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Senior satisfaction surveys have revealed a negative trend over the last few years.

While on absolute terms, these percentages remain high, they indicate an alarming decline in overall student contentedness during their time on campus. Relative to the Class of 2013, for example, overall satisfaction has fallen by 5 percent points and student likelihood of referring others to the College plummeted by 10. Now Dartmouth seems to have lost the ability to quantify one of its distinguishing features – the quality of life its undergraduates enjoy – as it trails its Ivy League peers in this crucial metric for the first time in recent memory.

In the days since the survey was released, many campus commentators have plied its numbers for greater meaning. The Daily Dartmouth, for example, suggested that the aggregated scores may be misleading, as low marks for the quality of pre-major advising, administrative engagement, and the campus social climate obscured student satisfaction with the quality of facilities, study abroad programming, and academic instruction. Others disagreed with this segmented approach, blaming the drop instead on campus pessimism after the events of last spring. One commenter in particular suggested that fall in senior contentedness “stems from how the administration handled things like Phiesta, the [RealTalkers], and [the] related Parkhurst fiasco” and its tendency to “coddle those who denigrate the institution, willfully violate codes of conduct, and rebuke people for their fundraiser name choice.” These issues and more seem to be contributing to a decline in Dartmouth’s national perception and have “cheapened” the quality of a graduating seniors’ degree.

Regardless of the trend’s causes, however, this year’s senior survey has added yet another negative data point to the overall campus discussion. The Dartmouth Review hopes that after years of passive leadership and endless hand-wringing, the College is now prepared to do something about the crisis of confidence it seems to be facing.